For some mothers, bonding with their newborns is a struggle that leaves them feeling overwhelmed, guilty and ashamed.

In one case, recalled Dr Helen Chen, the mother felt completely disconnected from her child.

"She thought she couldn't love the baby and felt nothing when she carried the baby," said Dr Chen, who heads the psychological medicine department at KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital (KKH). "It felt mechanical to her."

In April last year, the hospital started a pilot programme to help such mothers forge that emotional bond.

Yesterday, it said the home-based programme has helped 13 mothers so far. All the women also had post-natal depression, but their mood and bonding scores both improved after being on the scheme.

As part of the scheme, trained therapists visit mothers at home, observing how they interact with their babies and teaching them to pick up on a baby's subtle behavioural cues.

"For example, we help mums to understand that crying may not be as scary as they think - it is a way that the baby tries to communicate," said Ms Ong Li Lian, a senior clinical counsellor from Dr Chen's department.

Dr Chen added: "Some of these things seem quite easy, but I think what is difficult is that these mums are struggling emotionally.

Their thoughts just run wild."

Each home visit lasts about an hour. It typically takes three to four visits before some improvement is seen, Ms Ong said.

As part of the scheme, KKH has also been training staff from charity Clarity Singapore. Clarity has reached out to more than 100 expectant parents so far, and will conduct workshops to teach parents how to care for their emotional well-being.

Vouching for the importance of such care is Ms Goh Sing Yee, who experienced post-natal depression when her first child was born in 2012. The 35-year-old property agent recounted how she burst out crying one day when stuck in traffic, and began yelling and sounding her horn.

"I was crying in the front and my baby was screaming in the back," Ms Goh said. She eventually sought professional help at KKH.

Ms Goh said she was stressed out from the lack of sleep and was overloaded with information from various sources then.

Ms Ong urged mothers to treat parenting information from books or the Internet as just one point of reference. "Don't hold on to it so tightly," she said. "In reality, a lot of things are fluid. Take it day by day."